ssl != privacy

so I read about this new personalization of Google Search yesterday, and the further social-media-darling gushing about it today, flew past the supposed “motivational” features, down to the security and privacy section. they list 3 things that are supposed to reflect they are taking privacy & security seriously:

  • SSL encryption. OK, so random sniffers/proxies will have a harder time seeing what you’re searching for, presuming you requested your search through a secure page in the first place. At least this is the default if you’re signed in. This is fodder against “the big bad hacker” always looking over your shoulder. Are we all that paranoid?
  • Visual indication of results visibility scope. In general, the human mind can easily intuit this (“oh look, a link to my private journal.”) without the visual hint.
  • Toggle for unpersonalized results. I guess this is if someone is looking over your shoulder (in real life), or if you don’t trust your employer to be sniffing inside your SSL connections. (They are.) But it’d be arguably more useful to log out first, wouldn’t it?

And that’s it. It’s semi-security, not privacy, as always – and hardly “unprecedented” protection. It always boils down to a very basic fact: if you’re logged in, everything you do at that site is known to the service provider, and mapped to you, and possible elsewhere (cookies, JS, other tracking mechanisms). Even when you’re not logged in, guesswork to figure out who you are and what you’re doing is fairly straightforward.

Flirting with the “angry-old-woman” stereotype briefly: does this upset no one else?

There is absolutely nothing private about web-service-provided personalized search.

blog refresh

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I posted anything. 2011 was a depressing year, to be sure, but some good things did happen:

  • Got my music into a hit video game, Starwish
  • Resigned my job to get the Ph.D. completed. Estimate: 18-24 months to go from today.
  • Completed a 1000km rally on the rebuilt ’78 CB750, but just barely – she needs to go back into the shop this winter
  • Regained confidence in programming through some short-term hackfests
  • Started prep for the related Introduction to CouchDB Development course, kicking off next week
  • Vacations in both Buenos Aires and Singapore, including time with good friends in each
  • Helping lead and teach in some online gaming communities

I’m entering a very changeable 2012, personally, and I’m not sure exactly how it’ll turn out. At least I have a big list of things to get done!

laryngitis movie trailers – trailergytis

the worst part of my recent holiday trip to san francisco was bringing back a horrible cough/cold. (coffee connection, i blame you!)

the best part of having laryngitis is using my freakishly affected voice to record some Don LaFontaine-style fake movie trailers. i’m accepting trailer text via twitter #trailergytis or @wohali, and via comments on this form. assuming i still have the ailment when i get your message, i’ll record up a new one. state if you have any preference for the backing track, too.

trailers so far:

  1. Watership 2: Easter Time (1:00 mp3)
  2. Cheesefood the Usurper (0:45 mp3)
  3. The Fellowship of the Hirsuite (0:45 mp3)

The original inspiration:

help me read something good

OK, embarrassing truth time. I haven’t read any novels in a long time. A very long time. So long, in fact, that I can’t remember the last one I actually made it through. It’s been at least a year, if not longer.

Reading has started to feel like a chore. I think this is mostly because I keep returning to the same books I am told “I must read” or “I must enjoy,” such as Pratchett. I’ve tried 4 of his books now, and while I appreciate the humour a lot, I just can’t read them. I only made it through about 100 pages of “The News,” and that’s the farthest I’ve made it through any of his books. And my immediate sources of friends with books tend to focus on sci-fi, fantasy, or non-fiction military history.

It’s time for a change. Can you help me? Suggest 1 good book that will get me back into the habit of reading. My criteria are simple: it can’t be anything I’ve read before, it must be in print (or easily obtained from a used book store, not ebook), it must not be pulp fiction or poorly written, and it must be in English.



I’m nearing the end of a two week trip for work to Japan and wondering why I left here eight years ago, especially after nearly breaking down after my last few hours at work this week. Everyone’s been so nice and friendly, and in the evenings, I’ve had some great nights out with old friends. Sustainably, too, if I weren’t in a hotel.

I wrote a pretty cranky post about it then. Of the 24-ish points I made, I think 5 are still valid, I was wrong about 5, and the remaining 14 no longer apply to me, Japan, or the world at large. (For example, you can’t get away from cell phones anywhere now, and smoking is way down.)

In part, I know it was an emotional decision, running away from a disintegrating relationship – something I didn’t write about then, it was too close to home. I also had a lot of problems with other problems I’ve moved past, or the world has left behind: people being fake, too little motivation to learn Japanese, etc. Basically, I was overwhelmed by life and my emotions. I couldn’t see my way clear.

More interestingly, my Japanese seems to have gotten better with disuse. I’m not fluent by any means but it seems I’m better at grammar, making myself understood in personal and business situations, and suddenly kanji is clicking. (Thanks plane! _@_y)

Would I move back? Yes, for the right opportunity. And I know that, this time, I would do it without writing a tirade about what I don’t like about Canada, the US, or anywhere else I work (Argentina, Brazil, etc.) I wouldn’t be running from, I’d be jogging to.